Need a reason to hug your BFF? We got 13. (Photo: Getty Images)
Who are we without our best friends? After all, they’re our support systems, biggest defenders, most constructive critics, shoulders to cry on, and sources of laughter. And, science is increasingly showing, they’re some of the biggest boons to our health.
In honor of National Best Friends Day, read on for some of the biggest (and best!) ways our friends make us healthier:
Friends encourage you to kick nasty habits. Like smoking: Researchers from Harvard Medical School found in 2008 that if your friend, coworker, or spouse quits smoking, you’re more likely to quit, too.
Connecting with friends helps lower the stress hormone cortisol. Chronically high levels of stress are known to negatively affect several aspects of health, from the immune system to the heart.
Friends seem to help you live longer. Research shows that those with strong social ties have a higher rate of survival than those with weak social ties.
For cancer patients, they also seem to be vital in beating the disease. A study shows that social quality of life is a predictor of the recurrence and survival of breast cancer.
Close friendships are good for the heart. The physical one, we mean— research shows that heart attack and coronary artery disease risk are lower among people with close friends. Having friends is also associated with better blood pressure levels, compared with people who consider themselves lonely.
They make you happy through their happiness. A study of more than 4,700 people showed that when you have a happy friend living less than a mile away from you, you’re more likely to find personal happiness.
For kids, having even just one friend can help protect against depression. Kids don’t have to be popular — all it takes is one friend to protect against depression in pre-teenhood, research shows.
Plus, having friends helps kids deal with negative experiences. “Having a best friend present during an unpleasant event has an immediate impact on a child’s body and mind,” explained study researcher William Bukowski to HealthDay.
They’re so much better than fake Facebook friends. Sure, they may be called “friends” on Facebook and you may know all about their lives thanks to the newsfeed, but your happiness levels are so much higher when you talk to your real friends face-to-face (or even via webcam).
They can help you eat better. Research shows we are happier when we make similar dining choices as our friends sitting by us (so just make sure your friends are setting a good food example!).
Friends are a great addition to your workout. Your results will be better — thanks to the added accountability.
Your ability to be a good friend is also good for your health. It’s not just your friends being there for you, that has health benefits — research shows that when you’re able to give support to your friend, it’s also good for your well-being.
Read This Next: 5 Types Of Friends You Need To Ditch
Have a personal health story to share? We want to hear it. Tell us at YHTrueStories@yahoo.com.